Frequently Asked Questions

A “living wage” is the minimum amount that workers must earn to afford basic necessities without public or private assistance. Living wages are intended to meet the basic needs of a single individual working in Orange County, North Carolina.

The living wage for 2019 is $14.25, or $12.75 with employer-provided health insurance. 

The federal minimum wage (and current North Carolina state minimum wage) has remained at $7.25 per hour since 2009. The federal minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 per hour, which has not changed since 1991.

We use the Universal Living Wage Calculation, a widely used and nationally accepted method for determining the living wage for a specific area of the United States. It is based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standard: no more than 30% of a person’s gross income should be spent on housing. The Universal Living Wage shows how much a worker would need to be paid in order to afford a rental apartment. The consensus of living wage initiatives across the country is to use the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a one-bedroom apartment.

Accounting for County Variation: Orange County Living Wage uses Durham-Chapel Hill, NC HUD Metro FMR Area data for Chatham, Durham and Orange Counties and Burlington Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) data for Alamance to calculate a living wage. Most employees working in Orange County reside in Orange, Durham or Chatham Counties. To account for this preponderance, the average FMR for these counties is weighted at two times the average FMR for Alamance County.

Accounting for Variability in Housing Costs over Time: The use of average Fair Market Rents (FMRs) over the most recent 4 years is a conservative approach and removes the variability of rents over time.

The 2019 Living Wage used by Orange County Living Wage to certify employers is calculated as follows:

Chatham, Durham, and Orange Counties (Durham-Chapel Hill NC HUD Metro FMR Area) Alamance County (Burlington MSA)
FMR for 1 BR apartment
2018 $847.00 $601.00
2017 834.00 668.00
2016 796.00 642.00
2015 737.00 551.00
Average 2015-18 803.50 615.50
Income needed to allow 30% for rent
Monthly Wage $2,678.33 $2,051.67
Annual wage (monthly x 12) 32,139.96 24,620.04
Hourly wage (annual/2080hr) 15.45 11.85
(Chatham, Durham, Orange hourly wage X 2 + Alamance hourly wage X 1) divided by 3
If employer provides health insurance

Employer certification is voluntary, and designated people with the authority to represent your business or organization can apply here. Our main certification criterion is that you pay full and part time employees at least $14.25 per hour, or $12.75 per hour with employer-provided insurance. After you submit your application, our certification team will review it and follow up with you. The application form includes more detailed information on certification qualifications.

All full and part-time employees must be paid at least the living wage amount. Whether a person works 4 or 40 hours per week, they should be paid the same. A full hour’s work deserves a full hour’s wage.

All tipped, commissioned, and variable pay rate employees must be paid at least the living wage rate. This can include a lower hourly wage rate, so long as tips and commissions, together with the base rate, meet or exceed the living wage. Employers and employees are interviewed to verify their pay, at living wages, is consistently earned so that our certification requirements are met.

Interns, apprentices, temporary and project-based employees, minors working part time, probationary employees, and independent contractors paid via a 1099 are not included.

If you are an employee of a living wage certified business or organization and have any questions or concerns about your employer’s certification or payment, please submit them to us with the Employee Concern Form.

When a business is certified as a living wage employer, their certification is good for two years. Within those two years, a certified employer does not have to raise wages to meet OCLW’s annual living wage increases. However, some employers do raise wages each year to keep pace with the new guidelines. Every two years, when an employer applies for re-certification, they re-certify at the year’s current living wage.  Over 90% of employers have recertified when their initial certification expires. Those who don’t are frequently businesses that have closed or moved.

Support, patronize, and visit our local certified employers! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for news and updates on our local living wage community, and stay tuned for special events we organize to support our certified employers. Tag us and our certified employers in social media posts to help spread the word about positive change makers in our local economy!

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